Away from the coast, Loulé is a beautiful part of the Algarve, with countryside and villages that offer traditional, unspoiled Portugal, all just a short drive from the comfort of your holiday villa in Loulé and from Faro, the capital of the Algarve. Loulé is a walled, old market town steeped in history and retaining its castle and city walls. Ordinary Portuguese people live and work here and unlike many Algarve destinations, tourism is not its primary focus although many tourists do visit to immerse themselves in Portuguese culture and absorb the town’s historic charm.
Loulé Castle (below) was rebuilt in the 13th century and is of Moorish origin. It houses the Municipal Archaeological Museum of Loulé where an interesting collection of Roman pottery and Bronze Age artifacts is exhibited. There’s even a glass floor through which excavated Moorish ruins can be viewed.
The focal point of the town is the covered market (below), constructed in a Moorish style and housing stalls selling local produce, fresh fish and regional handicrafts.
Loulé is also home to the Algarve’s biggest and most popular Gypsy Market, which takes place every Saturday.
The town is filled with busy shopping streets, tree-lined plazas and a labyrinth of medieval alleys, with craftsmen’s workshops and traditional houses. Within the compact historic centre can be found not only the ancient castle but also the gothic Igreja Matriz, the Convento do Espírito Santo and many other reminders of this historic town’s colourful history.
Loulé has an abundance of cafés, bars and restaurants and with the vibrant coastal town of Vilamoura only a 15 minute drive away, the area has plenty of attractions after dark. During the summer season there are numerous events and festivals including the popular Festival Med towards the end of June.
Although Loulé is not on the coast, some of the most beautiful beaches in Portugal, such as Praia da Falésia (below) are within half an hour’s drive. 'Praia da Falésia', which means 'Beach of Cliffs', is a continuous stretch of golden sand almost 7km in length with beautiful, multicoloured cliffs as a backdrop. A walk along the clifftops, looking down at the shimmering sea below, is a wonderful experience at sunset as the light changes.
Quarteira Beach (below) can be reached by car in 20 minutes. It is a long, wide and busy beach with calm waters that runs from the east all the way to Faro and the tree-lined promenade is dotted with cafés and restaurants. The beach is gently sloping and is ideal for children. The safety flag system is in place during the summer season and is manned with lifeguards.
Loulé is not a conventional holiday destination and will appeal to those looking for a truly Portuguese experience close to an exclusive villa with a private pool. A hire car affords the opportunity to visit beaches and other historic centres set in the beauty of the Algarve countryside.